Epcor Water moves to take over as interim manager at Johnson Utilities

An Aug. 1 consulting agreement notice by the Arizona Corporation Commission demands an immediate order of Epcor Water Arizona Inc. to begin the processes of taking over operations of Johnson Utilities LLC on an interim basis. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the vote for the Arizona Corporation Commission. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

At a July 26 hearing, with a vote of 4-0, the Arizona Corporation Commission voted to approve an interim manager to temporarily take over operations of Johnson Utilities, which serves about 11,000 customers in Queen Creek and its surrounding areas.

Epcor, which is privately owned, won the contract bid over the towns of Queen Creek and Florence.

Queen Creek Town Attorney Scott Holcomb was disappointed in the decision, but said “we will cooperate with whomever the manager is in place and try and reach a regional solution for the Johnson Utility problems. Somebody has to take action,” he said.

“It’s my understanding that there were sewage overflow over the weekend, because of the rain. That’s why we were trying to be interim manager. So, our goal was to try to work and improve those situations, sooner rather than later. I have a lot of concerns, but they’ve all been laid out very much in the ACC proceedings,” he said.

In many recent Queen Creek Town Council meetings, the mayor and council members met behind closed doors in executive sessions on topics that included Johnson Utilities.

A consulting agreement notice was filed Aug. 1 by the Arizona Corporation Commission by its members demanding an immediate order of Epcor Water Arizona Inc. to begin the processes of taking over operations of Johnson Utilities LLC on an interim basis.

“We are working and hope by next week, we have a final agreement signed allowing Epcor to take over the day-to-day operations,” Nick Debus, Arizona Corporation Commission spokesperson, said.

The notice states that the agreed contracted amount for services is $50,000. The contract expires Dec. 31, 2018.

Epcor is to:

  • Take a complete review of all wastewater collection systems and treatment facilities, such as lift stations and force mains.
  • Create a mitigation plan for sanitary sewer overflows.
  • Provide an immediate action plan that will be created surrounding water transmission distribution systems to identify gaps in meeting client needs and emergency flow conditions.
  • Review past water-quality records and submit a plan to sample current water quality.
  • Give a timeline of projects, addressing costs, any safety concerns, compliance requirements and reliability.

Epcor Spokesperson Anna Garcia explains that they are “…working as a contractor for the Arizona Corporation Commission to assess the condition and reliability of the Johnson Utilities water and wastewater systems and to determine what measures to take to bring the systems into compliance with all applicable regulations.

Editor’s note: Amy Pholphiboun is a freelance journalist at the Queen Creek Independent.

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